Tag Archives: Romain Grosjean

What a difference a year makes – the rise of Romain Grosjean

One year ago, there were many doubts about Romain Grosjean, and whether or not be belonged in Formula 1.  Now a year on, those doubts are gone, and the Frenchman is regarded as one of the best talents on the grid.  So what changed, and can he build on his excellent end-of-season run into 2014?

I think we have to look first at his 2012 season.  While showing flashes of speed, he was sometimes a liability on track.  He was blamed for the first corner crash in Spa-Francorchamps that eliminated many of the front-runners, and took responsibility after being given a one-race ban for the incident.

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“When you love racing this is very hard,” said Grosjean after the incident. “I accept my mistake.”

“We know that La Source is a very tough corner. It was a bit of a crazy start as well with [Pastor] Maldonado leaving [the grid early] and the Sauber [Kobayashi] smoking a lot,” said Grosjean.

“I did a mistake and I misjudged the gap with Lewis. I was sure I was in front of him. So a small mistake made a big incident.”

Grosjean was angry with himself more than the penalty, but was sure the individual incidents were not all caused by over aggression but by misjudgements in space management.

“I did too many,” he said. “If there is more than one then that is too many, I agree. But as I say it is not always the same. It’s not over-aggressive by braking 200 metres too late, it’s just most of the time misjudgement of the space I have in front or the space I have on the side.”

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The Spa crash was his seventh early-race skirmish of the 2012 season, but it would not be his last.  In Suzuka, Grosjean punted Red Bull driver Mark Webber into a spin at the second corner, and the Australian driver was furious with the Frenchman over the incident, even suggesting that it would be appropriate for him to sit out another race.

“I haven’t obviously seen what happened at the start but the guys confirmed that it was the first-lap nutcase again Grosjean,” said Webber in Japan.

“The rest of us are trying to fight for some decent results each weekend but he is trying to get to the third corner as fast as he can at every race.

“It makes it frustrating because a few big guys probably suffered from that and maybe he needs another holiday.”

So how did Grosjean move from ‘first lap nutcase’ to being praised by the same driver exactly a year later in Japan?

Vettel flys past Grojean's Lotus on the pit straight

“It’s very clear that Romain has a very different mental approach to the job this year,” said Webber.

“He’s driven some quite strong races, putting together the whole weekend, which is a sign of a driver starting to get a bit more relaxed and confident. A lot less mistakes, not just in races but in practice too.”

So what brought about the change?  Grosjean knew that he had to raise his game and remove the mistakes from his driving to progress.  He was worried about losing his seat after the mistakes of 2012.

I was worried,” said Grosjean. “It hasn’t been the easiest part of the season, to get to December when all of the races are done and you are waiting for an answer.

“I had good discussions with the team owners and we tried to analyse the situation, understand it and see if we could keep the speed at where we wanted to and to score a lot of points.”

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Then Lotus team principal Eric Boullier admitted the team sat down with their driver at the end of the 2012 season to work out whether Grosjean was the right driver for the seat for 2013.  It was a positive meeting, and the Frenchman knew he had to change his approach.

“He clearly showed us, with some feedback from the engineers in the teams, that everything he was taught – and everything he learned – was applied in his understanding of what is a complex matter,” said Boullier.

“He definitely proved to us that he wanted to do well and it was really clear.”

It was not long after that meeting that Grosjean was announced for a second season at Lotus alongside 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

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“I learnt a lot in my first full season in Formula 1 and my aim is to put these lessons into practice with stronger and more consistent performance on track next year,” said Grosjean.

“I think when there are stats that show you have one fastest lap, three podiums and 96 points and stuff like that, and if you told me one year ago at Race Of Champions – I would not believe it.

“So it was a good year in that respect. We had some fantastic results, a little bit too [many] mistakes as well – which is the shadow of the year.

“But they helped me to improve myself in the winter – to try to analyse it, keep the speed we show and go for the results we deserve. We now need to score points for the team, for myself and for all the championship.”

He began quietly in Australian and Malaysia, but sprung into life with a great display in Bahrain, fighting through to a podium finish and passing Paul di Resta’s Force India for third near the end of the race.  He was also heading for a strong result the following race in Spain before suspension failure curtailed his day.

Monaco 2013 however was the low point of the season for Grosjean, with the Frenchman crashing in virtually every session, including the race when he misjudged his braking and hit the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso, eliminating both.  Grosjean was given a post-race grid-drop penalty for the following Canadian Grand Prix.

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“We want him to keep the pace and make sure that he is back in control like he was at the beginning of the season,” said Boullier.

“We need to sit with him and go through the weekend. He had the pace and we saw all weekend he could do it.

“And it is even more frustrating because of that.”

However, his season would improve once and for all at the German grand prix at the Nurburgring, and after that he would not look back.  Gone were the mistakes, and the results were coming.  He took the fight to Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull at the Nurburgring and grabbed his second podium of the season.  At the Hungaroring, he was the recipient of a penalty for apparently overtaking Ferrari driver Felipe Massa whilst all four wheels of his car were off the track.  Even Massa said the penalty was unjustified.

“If he took the penalty because of what he did with me, that’s completely wrong,” said Massa.

“He didn’t go four wheels outside, he went with two wheels. Two wheels is possible.”

Nether-the-less, he was given a drive-penalty and finished on the road in sixth.  He was later given a second penalty for a pass on Jenson Button that went slightly awry, but remained sixth.

Gran Premio del Giappone Formula 1, la Gara

At Singapore, Grosjean was running a very strong race and was heading for another podium before an air leak in the engine pneumatic system forced him out.

“We’ve never been so annoyed to get a podium,” said Alan Permane, Lotus F1’s trackside operations director.   It was Grosjean’s misfortune that enabled team-mate Raikkonen to take a podium finish.

“Romain had a perfect day yesterday pretty much. He didn’t have a great first lap, but I defy anyone to keep Fernando [Alonso] behind them on the first lap. He was just doing his first lap and would have been third without a doubt.”

In the following race in Korea, he was on the podium.  He was the only driver to keep Vettel in sight throughout the race, but lost out to Kimi Raikkonen after a safety car period closed up the drivers.  A slight mistake at turn 15 enabled his team-mate to pass going into the first turn.

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Unfortunately for me and good for Kimi, the safety car came,” said Grosjean. “I made a small mistake, my fault, and Kimi passed me and then there were yellow flags so I couldn’t use DRS.

I was quicker today. It is a track where it is almost impossible to overtake.

“I should have avoided the AstroTurf in Turn 15 and that would be the end of the conversation.”

Then we came to Japan, a year after being dubbed a first lap nutcase.  One of the best starts of the season saw him propel himself from fourth to the lead, a lead that he would hold through two pit stops before being overtaken by both Red Bull drivers.

“I thought today was going to be the day that my first victory was coming,” he said after finishing third.

“We were quick on the medium tyres, but unfortunately the car was less good on the hards.

“In our strategy meeting, though, we never thought we could beat the Red Bulls today and we are where we expected to be.”

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But the two Red Bull drivers were full of praise for the only driver to give them a race – Fernando Alonso was 45 seconds adrift in fourth place in his Ferrari.  Sebastian Vettel even said he was becoming a match for team-mate Raikkonen.

“I thought it was a great day for Romain; he drove a fantastic race,” Vettel said.  “I think Romain did a great job all weekend.

“We know Kimi is a strong driver. Last year I think Romain made some mistakes but the most important thing is that we learn from these mistakes as drivers. He learned a lot of things and gradually he’s improving, so big respect for that.”

In India, he finished on the podium again, but in a very different way.  He attempted to get through the first part of qualifying just on hard tyres, but missed out and started a lowly 17th.  However he fought back magnificently, and passed Raikkonen towards the end to grab third.

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“Starting 17th I had no big hopes,” he said. “The best strategy on the computer gave me P4.

“I would not have bet a peanut on being third.  The car came back to how it was on Friday.

“The race pace was great and we did a very brave strategy – as we did yesterday,” he said.

“It was not the time to go safe. It paid off, we’re back on the podium.”

A fourth in Abu Dhabi was followed by a superb race in the United States saw him finish second, and held off Webber’s Red Bull for the majority of the race, even with the use of the Drag Reduction System (DRS).

“We’ve always known Romain is super fast, actually maybe too fast, and sometimes too fast for his car,” said Boullier after Austin.  “Having some completeness with his family [he became a father earlier this year] has helped him reach another level of confidence, and then you see the results on track.

“He is starting to be a damned good driver. I think you can rate him in the top three or four today.

“He started to perform well from Germany onwards. There was still a bit fine tuning needed on his side, but he has had a very fine second half of the season.”

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So after starting the year as a driver with a questionable reputation, he ended 2013 as one of the hot properties of Formula 1.  When doubts were raised about whether Lotus would make it onto the grid due to the financial situation it found itself in, people were saying it would be a travesty if Grosjean were not on the grid in 2014.

Thankfully Lotus have made it, and Grosjean will be on the grid.  If Lotus can give him the car, and perhaps more importantly if Renault can give him the power-unit, the Frenchman’s aims for 2014 should be high.  He has made himself into a very good driver, and a win now would seal his rise up.

The speed of Romain Grosjean has always been there, it is just pleasing to see that the consistency required to be a Formula 1 driver has materialised too.  France has only ever had one world champion driver in Alain Prost, but in Grosjean, they quite possibly could have the best possibility of adding a second.

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I know that to many that is a sensational statement, but I’ve seen his career develop and I like what I see.  And I still believe he can get better.

Sources: Autosport, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Could Romain Grosjean follow Eric Boullier to McLaren?

Romain Grosjean’s close relationship with Eric Boullier could lead to the Frenchman leaving Lotus and join his countryman at the McLaren team as soon as 2015.

When Boullier left his role as team principal of Lotus at the end of the 2013 Formula 1 season and joined McLaren, doubts arose regarding the driver he signed for the team in 2012, and stood by during all his on-track issues that year.

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With so much off-track doubts surrounding Lotus, including delays in paying employees including its drivers, there is a possibility that Grosjean could link-up with Boullier again in 2015 in some capacity.  McLaren have a few choices for its drivers – Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne are already there this year – but Grosjean could offer something different.

The Frenchman had a breakthrough year in 2013, and was the only driver to regularly trouble the Red Bull Racing/Sebastian Vettel domination at the end of the year.  He claimed six podium finishes, including a second place in the United States Grand Prix in Austin, and five third places in Bahrain, Germany, Korea, Japan and India.

Boullier was part of Gravity Sport Management who manage Grosjean’s career, but Gerard Lopez, the chief of Lotus team owner Genii Capital and the successor to Boullier at Gravity, believes Grosjean will be at Lotus for the long term.

“It is us who brought Romain from GP2, and his career was launched by Jean-Paul Driot, who is a friend and a partner,” said Lopez.

“Then the choice of the lineup for F1 was done with Eric Boullier, but it’s still us who decided. And Gravity is 100% ours.

“For me, Romain is one of the best drivers in F1 today, and I think we will soon be able to announce something for the very long term.”

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If the car Lotus give Grosjean is not as good as the one they gave him in 2013, there is a big possibility that the Frenchman could walk away from Lotus at the end of the 2014 season, especially if the financial issues that have been around the team do not go away.

Grosjean and new team-mate Pastor Maldonado will hope to run in the new Lotus in the upcoming pre-season test in Bahrain after Lotus decided to miss the first test.

Sources: http://www.gravitysportmanagement.com/, http://www.espn.co.uk/

Lotus & Their 2014 Drivers

The departure of Kimi Raikkonen, although not surprising, has left a big hole in the Lotus line-up for the 2014 Formula One World Championship season.  The future of his current teammate Romain Grosjean is also up in the air, so what happens now for the team formally named Renault, especially after the defection of one of their major engineers to Ferrari in Technical Director James Allison?

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Romain Grosjean’s season has been a vast improvement from 2012, and his reputation is beginning to be rebuilt.  The Enstone based team has also stood by him publicly, and his performances have showed real development, proving the team were right to back him.  If I were Lotus, I’d want some stability at the team, and Grosjean would supply that.  On his day he can fight for the win like at the Nurburgring this year, and it won’t be long before Lotus and ‘RoGro’ win together in my opinion.

But that’s only one of the drivers linked to the two seats in the team.  The others linked already have been current reserve driver Davide Valsecchi, Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, Sauber’s German driver Nico Hulkenberg, and Ferrari outcast Felipe Massa.

The firm favourite at this point seems to be Nico Hulkenberg.  The young German continues to impress in his F1 career this year, and came out with a very impressive fifth placed finish in the recent Italian Grand Prix in a Sauber most people feel is a very disappointing car.  Many believe Hulkenberg is overdue a top-line drive, and Lotus might be the car he needs to finally fight regularly at the front of the field.  It could also help him get over the disappointment of missing out on the Ferrari drive to Raikkonen.

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Brazilian Felipe Massa sees his seven year career at Ferrari come to an end at the climax of the 2013 Brazilian Grand Prix, and him being linked to the team is mainly because of his replacement at Ferrari, Kimi Raikkonen, being the current Lotus driver.  However the chances for Massa going to Lotus is growing quickly, with Renault Boss Eric Boullier apparently saying he’s the best option to replace Kimi.  I for one can see the likeable Massa remain in the sport for 2014, but for me it’ll more than likely be at Sauber, possibly as Nico Hulkenberg’s replacement!  Though I have been known to be wrong!

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Pastor Maldonado moving from Williams to Lotus is an outside bet at best, and would be dependant on the commercial package he brings being right for the team.  The Venezuelan, winner of the 2012 Spanish Grand Prix, would bring his PDVSA money, which could help the team who have had financial issues in the past six months or so.

Maldonado

The other name that could get the drive is current Lotus reserve driver and 2012 GP2 Series champion Davide Valsecchi, though this is unlikely as the Italian has spent the best part of a whole year on the side-lines not racing, and only had brief test sessions in the Lotus during the winter and in the young drivers test at Silverstone.

Valsecchi

So what do Lotus do?  Of course other names could come into the equation, but for me the logical choice would be to retain Romain Grosjean and hire Nico Hulkenberg as his teammate.  For me that signals the intent they want to be a force in the sport.  Both drivers could challenge for race wins and potentially championships.  They might go for Massa alongside Grosjean, but ultimately it will be up to the team at Enstone to make the final decision for 2014.

Hey, it could even be Fernando Alonso!

Romain Grosjean: Returning to the Scene of the Crime

Let’s recap the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.  Lotus Renault driver Romain Grosjean started 8th on the grid, but caused a multi-car accident at the first corner that eliminated Fernando Alonso (Ferrari), Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and Sergio Perez (Sauber), and the crash earnt him a one race ban for the following round in Monza.  In fact in his two races at Spa, Grosjean has yet to complete a full racing lap, having crashed into Brawn GP’s Jenson Button in 2009.

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There was a lot of doubt about whether Lotus would keep Grosjean on for a second year after being dubbed a ‘first lap nutcase’ by Mark Webber for causing multiple first lap crashes in 2012.  However his starts this year have been relatively clean, and his races likewise, Monaco aside.  Two podium finishes in Bahrain and Germany have seen him reach 8th in the championship on 49 points after 10 races.  However his results this season can be a bit misleading.  He was heading for points in Spain before he had suspension issues, and again in Silverstone before a front wing issue, whist in Hungary he finished 6th despite two unlucky and questionable drive-through penalties.

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His boss Eric Boullier and his Trackside Operations Director Alan Permane have come out recently and praised the Frenchman’s attitude and strong form.  He is making a strong case for being retained by the team for a third year in 2014, despite rumours linking Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg to the drive.  Maintaining his strong form is essential, not just for this year, but for his ultimate Formula 1 career.  His reputation for sometimes being too aggressive on track has not left him yet, and he finds himself the butt of many a joke on social media websites.

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Which leads us back to the venue of the next grand prix – Spa Francorchamps.  Two competitive weekends at the Nurburgring and the Hungaroring should give him confidence, while the birth of his baby boy Sacha during the summer break should help him relax somewhat.  But Romain will be hoping for a strong, but more importantly clean, Belgian Grand Prix.  We do not want to see him crashing out on the first lap for a third time, especially if its him causing the problems.  He will want to get last years race out of his mind, and prove that he can compete cleanly and safely on every track on the calendar.

I have known Romain Grosjean to be a very quick driver throughout his career, but Spa will show whether or not he has learnt from his mistakes of last year.  I for one hope he has, I for one can see race wins happening sooner rather than later for the Frenchman.  Why not at Spa?  That’ll silence (most) of his critics, surely?

The History Of GP2 and GP3

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GP2 was started in 2005 as a replacement for the F3000 series, and is often thought as the main feeder series for Formula 1. The inaugeral season had 23 rounds, 11 weekends of two races (one feature race on Saturday, and a sprint race on Sunday) while 1 weekend in Monaco just having a feature race.  Twelve teams featured in the first season.  GP2 Asia started in 2008 to help promote racing in Asia, and lasted for four seasons before merging with the main GP2 series in 2012.

GP2 Champions

  • 2005 – Nico Rosberg – Finland – ART Grand Prix
  • 2006 – Lewis Hamilton – Great Britain – ART Grand Prix
  • 2007 – Timo Glock – Germany – iSport International
  • 2008 – Giorgio Pantano – Italy – Racing Engineering
  • 2009 – Nico Hulkenberg – Germany – ART Grand Prix
  • 2010 – Pastor Maldonado – Venezuela – Rapax
  • 2011 – Romain Grosjean – France – DAMS
  • 2012 – Davide Valsecchi – Italy – DAMS

GP2 Feature Race Winners

  • 7 – Giorgio Pantano – Italy, Pastor Maldonado – Venezuela
  • 6 – Romain Grosjean – France
  • 4 – Heikki Kovalainen – Finland, Nelson Piquet Jr – Brazil, Luca Filippi – Italy, Vitaly Petrov – Russia
  • 3 – Gianmaria Bruni – Italy, Nico Rosberg – Germany, Lewis Hamilton – Great Britain, Lucas di Grassi – Brazil, Nico Hulkenberg – Germany, Davide Valsecchi – Italy
  • 2 – Adam Carroll – Great Britain, Alexandre Premat – France, Timo Glock – Germany, Bruno Senna – Brazil, Alvaro Parente – Portugal, Giedo van der Garde – Netherlands, Charles Pic – France, Sergio Perez – Mexico, Johnny Cecotto Jr – Venezuela, Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico, Max Chilton – Great Britain
  • 1 – Neel Jani – Switzerland, Andreas Zuber – United Arab Emirates, Nicolas Lapierre – France, Alberto Valerio – Brazil, Sam Bird – Great Britain, Jules Bianchi – France, Christian Vietoris – Germany, Luiz Razia – Brazil, Marcus Ericsson – Sweden

GP2 Sprint Race Winners

  • 5 – Timo Glock – Germany
  • 4 – Davide Valsecchi – Italy, Luiz Razia – Brazil
  • 3 – Adam Carroll – Great Britain, Javier Villa – Spain, Romain Grosjean – France, Pastor Maldonado – Venezuela, Giedo van der Garde – Netherlands, Sergio Perez – Mexico
  • 2 – Nico Rosberg – Germany, Olivier Pla – France, Ernesto Viso – Venezuela, Lewis Hamilton – Great Britain, Giorgio Pantano – Italy, Karun Chandhok – India, Sebastian Buemi – Switzerland, Lucas di Grassi – Brazil, Nico Hulkenberg – Germany, Luca Filippi – Italy, Fabio Leimer – Switzerland, Christian Vietoris – Germany, Stefano Coletti – Monaco, Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico, James Calado – Great Britain
  • 1 – Jose Maria Lopez – Argentina, Clivio Piccione – Monaco, Alexandre Premat – France, Heikki Kovalainen – Finland, Neel Jani – Switzerland, Michael Ammermuller – Germany, Nelson Piquet Jr – Brazil, Andreas Zuber – United Arab Emirates, Nicolas Lapierre – France, Kamui Kobayashi – Japan, Mike Conway – Great Britain, Bruno Senna – Brazil, Edoardo Mortara – Italy, Jerome d’Ambrosio – Belgium, Dani Clos – Spain, Marcus Ericcson – Sweden, Giacomo Ricci – Italy, Charles Pic – France, Tom Dillmann – France, Jolyon Palmer – Great Britain, Josef Kral – Czech Republic.

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GP2 Asia Champions

  • 2008 – Romain Grosjean – France – ART Grand Prix
  • 2008/09 – Kamui Kobayashi – Japan – DAMS
  • 2009/10 – Davide Valsecchi – Italy – iSport International
  • 2011 – Romain Grosjean – France – DAMS

GP2 Asia Feature Race Winners

  • 4 – Romain Grosjean – France
  • 2 – Kamui Kobayashi – Japan, Diego Nunes – Brazil, Davide Valsecchi – Italy
  • 1 – Sebastian Buemi – Switzerland, Vitaly Petrov – Russia, Roldan Rodriguez – Spain, Nico Hulkenberg – Germany, Oliver Turvey – Great Britain, Luca Filippi – Italy, Jules Bianchi – France

GP2 Asia Sprint Race Winners

  • 2 – Kamui Kobayashi – Japan, Davide Valsecchi – Italy, Sergio Perez – Mexico
  • 1 – Romain Grosjean – France, Fairuz Fauzy – Malaysia, Marco Bonanomi – Italy, Vitaly Petrov – Russia, Luiz Razia – Brazil, Christian Vietoris – Germany, Charles Pic – France, Giacomo Ricci – Italy, Stefano Coletti – Monaco, Dani Clos – Spain

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GP3 was started in 2010 as a feeder & support series to GP2, with two races held every weekend. Ten teams of three drivers competed in the inaugarel season, held over 8 race weekends.

GP3 Champions

  • 2010 – Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico – ART Grand Prix
  • 2011 – Valtteri Bottas – Finland – Lotus ART
  • 2012 – Mitch Evans – New Zealand – MW Arden

GP3 Race Winners

  • 5 – Esteban Gutierrez – Mexico
  • 4 – Mitch Evans – New Zealand, Valtteri Bottas – Finland, Antonio Felix da Costa – Portugal
  • 3 – Rio Haryanto – Indonesia, Nico Muller – Switzerland, Robert Wickens – Canada
  • 2 – Alexander Rossi – United States, Patric Niederhauser – Switzerland, Daniel Abt – Germany
  • 1 – Pal Varhaug – Norway, Daniel Morad – Canada, Adrien Tambay – France, Nigel Melker – Netherlands, Alexander Sims – Great Britain, Tamas Pal Kiss – Hungary, Adrian Quaife-Hobbs – Great Britain, James Calado – Great Britain, Lewis Williamson – Great Britain, Richie Stanaway – New Zealand, Conor Daly – United States, Aaro Vainio – Finland, Marlon Stockinger – Philippines, William Buller – Great Britain, Matias Laine – Finland, Tio Ellinas – Cyprus.

F1 Teams & Drivers Aims of 2013

What should all the drivers and teams be aiming for in 2013?  Yes they should be aiming high, but just how high? I shall run down team by team, driver by driver, and say what I believe they should be thinking about during the 2013 season.

Red Bull Racing

As triple World Constructors Champions its hard to imagine that Red Bull are aiming for anything but four on the bounce. Adrian Newey is a master of aerodynamics & engineering, so I don’t think they will be far away from the top.

  • Sebastian Vettel – Three championships in a row, four has got to be the aim. He will not want to be coming from behind as he did in 2012, and will want to return to the level of domination he had in 2011. He likes leading from the front.
  • Mark Webber – Surely one of Mark’s aims will be to shut Helmut Marko up. He has to have a strong season, competing regularly at the same level as Vettel, otherwise he’ll be on the scrapheap.

Scuderia Ferrari

When Fernando Alonso joined the team in 2010, it should have meant some more world championships for both team & driver, but that hasn’t happened as of yet.  It should be their aim to break the Red Bull domination, but it also requires them to design & supply a car to do so, something Alonso didn’t have in 2012.

  • Fernando Alonso – Three years, two runners up spots in the final standings. His fight to the end of the 2012 season was amazing in a car that wasn’t the fastest at any time during the year. He should be aiming for P1, anything less could be considered another failure.
  • Felipe Massa – A strong finish to 2012 enabled the Brazilian to keep his Ferrari seat despite a lot of pressure from outside the team. He should be aiming for a strong season from race 1 this time around, to stop all the mutterings returning about who would and could replace him.  He should also be aiming to return to the top step of the podium

McLaren Mercedes

McLaren arguably had the fastest car in 2012 but failed to take it to the top. Having lost Lewis Hamilton they’ll have to regroup, but their aim still has to be P1. They still have former World Champion Jenson Button at the team alongside young Mexican Sergio Perez so race wins should be the aim every time they race.

  • Jenson Button – He should be aiming for a return to the form of 2011 where he was by far the best of the rest to Sebastian Vettel.  On his day hes a match for everyone on the F1 grid, but like Mark Webber, he needs to make it his day far more often.
  • Sergio Perez – Surely the Mexican’s aims have to be improving his qualifying efforts, which hampered him during his couple of years at Sauber, and to win his first race.  Its been a long old time since a Mexican stood on the top step of the podium.

Lotus Renault

When the team signed Kimi Raikkonen in 2012, it was seen as a surprise. But after a few years away he proved he still had it.  The team surely has wins on its aims list for 2013, having tasted the champagne just once in 2012.  They should be aiming to break into the top three of the championship, mixing it with Red Bull, Ferrari & McLaren.

  • Kimi Raikkonen – Whereas the team might not put priority in winning the constructors championship, Kimi surely has aims for the drivers championship.  He was a good third in 2012, and will be aiming to win more than just the once like he did last year.
  • Romain Grosjean – Make or break year for the Frenchman. His first aim will be to get around the first lap of every Grand Prix without incident.  Then once he’s under control, he’ll be aiming for regular podiums and to be the first Frenchman to win a race since 1996.

Mercedes-AMG

The team shocked the F1 world by signing Lewis Hamilton to replace Michael Schumacher for 2013 & beyond.  This year has surely got to be a year of rebuilding before a full on assault on both championships in 2014.  The team has surely got to aim for podiums and to get amongst the big boys on a regular basis.

  • Nico Rosberg – A first win in 2012 was well deserved.  His aims surely have to include being at the same level as his highly rated teammate and to show at the same time that he’s one of the best around.  Podiums and possibly a win or two could also be aims for the German.
  • Lewis Hamilton – You have to assume Mercedes can’t give him a championship winning car straight away, with their main aim being 2014.  However it should be one of Hamilton’s aims to get amongst the Red Bull’s, Ferraris, McLarens & Lotus’ and challenge for poles, podiums & wins.

Sauber Ferrari

Sauber were at times in 2012 the surprise package, grabbing four podiums.  Surely its aims must be to emulate those achievements and maybe, just maybe, grab their first ever win as an independent team.  It has two young drivers who could just possibly make that happen.  To finish 6th in the constructors championship has also got to be a big aim for the team.

  • Nico Hulkenberg – Surprising left Force India after a strong season. Surely an aim is for him to finally step onto the podium.  A good car could let him do just that.  A small aim might be to win a race but that might be decided by circumstance rather than racecraft.
  • Esteban Gutierrez – Pushed into F1 by his sponsors, his aims must surely to be solid, bring the car home regularly and to score points.

Force India Mercedes

A winter of uncertainty has left Force India with only one driver at present.  Surely as the biggest team in 2012 not to score a podium (though Nico Hulkenberg should have delivered one in Brazil) thats got to be one of its biggest aims.  To finish ahead of Sauber and the other midfield teams is also something to aim at.

  • Paul di Resta – Strong throughout the first two thirds of 2012 but dropped off once Hulkenberg got into form.  Confidence driver, so aim must be to be confident and score big points for the team and grab his first ever podium finish in F1.
  • Jules Bianchi / Adrian Sutil / Narain Karthikeyan. – TBA

Williams Renault

A surprise win in 2012 in Barcelona but no other podium finishes.  Has to be aiming to get ahead of both Sauber & Force India in 2013.  A podium or two would also be on their wish list I imagine.

  • Pastor Maldonado – First Venezuelan to win a Grand Prix, but has a tendency to be erratic.  He should be aiming for regular points finishes and the odd podium to complement his obvious talent behind the wheel.  Getting into Qualifying three in every race should be an aim too.
  • Valtteri Bottas – pitlane favourite making his F1 racing debut after a year as a test driver.  Has to prove to the team that his hype is well-placed.  Aims must be a consistant season with regular points finishes.  Has to also try and qualify close to his teammate who was epic regularly in 2012.

Toro Rosso Ferrari

The eyes of management are always on the Toro Rosso drivers, however the team must deliver a car that can decide whether or not the drivers are up for the job.  They need to aim higher than they delivered in 2012, and need regular points scoring for both drivers.  They should be aiming for 6th, not the 9th they accomplished in 2012.

  • Jean-Eric Vergne – One aim has got to be to sort out his qualifying pace, especially with two midfield drivers guarenteed to drop out of qualifying at the first hurdle.  He showed good race pace on occasion in 2012, and needs to build on that and score regular points in 2013.
  • Daniel Ricciardo – The likeable Aussie has to prove that the talent he showed in junior categories is still there.  He has to aim for qualifying performances like we saw in Bahrain 2012 on a more regular basis, and to finish in the points more often too.

Caterham Renault

Points.  Purely and simply must be the aim for Caterham.  Three years have passed already since they entered the sport and no points have yet to be scored, despite having good drivers on their books.  The original line-up has gone, but the target for points and at least 10th in the championship remains.

  • Charles Pic – Second year in the sport for the Frenchman, and the most experienced within the team. Has to build on a solid first year in the sport and be the main driver who challenges for those first elusive points.
  • Giedo van der Garde – Has been linked to F1 drives for years but has finally reached it.  Has to aim for good qualifying speed and good racecraft, taking advantage of anything that happens to perhaps challenge for points.

Marussia Cosworth

Losing Timo Glock is a big blow, but like Caterham, its aims have surely got to be the teams first ever F1 points.  KERS for the first time should help, but two rookie drivers is always a risk, especially for a small team.

  • Max Chilton – The Brit comes with a lot of backing, but also with a good amount of talent, having won several races in 2012 in the GP2 season.  Has to aim to qualify good, and take advantage of anything that happens in front of him to maybe scrape into the points.
  • Luiz Razia – Very talented Brazilian, should do well in F1 given the right car.  Should, like his teammate, be aiming for competive qualifying sessions, perhaps getting into the second phase on a regular basis, and perhaps a point or two during the races.

My Top 10 Wishes for F1 2013

Formula 1 in 2012 was one of the best seasons ever in the sport. We had seven winners in the first seven races, a record, and 8 winners in total after Kimi Raikkonen’s win in Abu Dhabi.  F1 in 2013 has a lot to live up to, but here is a list of what I would like to happen this year:

1 – Close, exciting racing.
F1 2012 had 8 different winners for 6 different teams. I would like 2013 to have a similar storyline, with competitive drivers up and down the grid. I know overtaking isn’t as hard anymore due to the Drag Reduction System (DRS), but I want the drivers to be close enough to be able to use it. China 2012 is an example of the close running, when it seemed P2 to P14 were running on the same back straight.  More of that if you please.

Grosjean-en-Valencia

2 – Felipe Massa to return to the top step of the podium.
It would be some story to see Felipe Massa win again.  He hasn’t won a race since the end of the 2008 season when he was pipped to the title by Lewis Hamilton in Brazil. His return to form at the back end of 2012 was welcomed, and was just in time to save his Ferrari career.  Now he needs to complete his comeback and win a race or two. No one could say he wouldn’t deserve it.

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3 – Mark Webber to prove to Helmut Marko he’s no number 2.
Helmut Marko has a knack of talking rubbish.  We all know Mark Webber, on his day, can beat anyone including Sebastian Vettel, Nurburging 2009, Monaco & Spain 2010, and Silverstone 2012 spring to mind.  However we also know that his days do not come often enough, whereas Sebastian seems to be always there or there abouts.  Marko has come out said that Webber’s job is to support Vettel. I’d hope that Webber can not just do that, but prove to Marko that he can be a winner and on a consistant basis, and run Vettel close all year like he did in 2010.

F1 Testing in Jerez - Day One

4 – Marussia & Caterham to finally score points.
Excuses are running out for these two teams – they need to score points.  Both of the teams are entering their fourth year of Formula 1 and have yet to break into the top 10 during the race.  With HRT’s demise, we do not want to see either Caterham or Marussia at the back, we want them competing with the midfielders for points.  Hope is higher for Marussia than Caterham to finally do it, but I want them both to manage it.

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5 – Mercedes to provide a competitive car for Rosberg & Hamilton.
Lewis Hamilton leaving McLaren to go to Mercedes was the biggest off-track story of 2012, but it now needs his new team to provide him with a car that is going to compete for wins for him and his teammate Nico Rosberg. We all know the fight Lewis has in him, but he needs the car to be working well under him for him to be competing for race wins as lots of people will be wanting him to.

Motorsports: FIA Formula One World Championship 2012, Grand Prix of China

6 – Romain Grosjean to prove he belongs in F1.
We can all say 2012 wasn’t the best year for Romain Grosjean.  He had a number of start line and first lap incidents (not all of his fault) but he cannot afford to make any mistakes again this year.  We all know he’s quick, his three podiums last year and his Valencia performance show that.  He just has to put it all together and prove to all his doubters that he’s in F1 for the long haul.

F1_2012_Jerez_test_-_Lotus_4

7 – Sauber to finally win a race.
Sauber have been racing since 1993 and have never reached the top step of the podium as a privateer team.  Yes they won with Robert Kubica when they were in partnership with BMW, but Malaysia 2012 with Sergio Perez was by far they came to a win as their own team. Nico Hulkenberg is the most likely of the two drivers to win a race in 2013, but it would be a mighty popular win if Sauber could indeed pull it off.

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8 – A Force India to finish on the podium.
Aside from Toro Rosso and the three minnows, Force India were the only team not to score a podium finish in 2012. Nico Hulkenberg came closest in Brazil, and could possibly have won had he not spun on the damp track into Lewis Hamilton.  They had a podium with Giancarlo Fisichella back in 2009, but nothing since. They need to get back there, and I’d like them too.

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9 – No major controversies, on or off the track.
Purely and simply, I just want clean races and no backhanded tactics affecting the season, on the track or off it.

Spanish F1 GP 2012 - Race Preview Feature (MBAMGF1)

10 – A different world champion.
No offence at all to Sebastian Vettel, hes earned the last three championships, but I just want a change at the top. I really don’t mind who wins it, as long as they are a deserving champion.

vettelwin_2511getty_630

F1 Launch Season – Part 2 – Lotus, Mercedes & Sauber

Part two of my blog, focusing this time on the Lotus, Mercedes & Sauber teams and their drivers for the 2013 Formula 1 season, finding out who will be more than likely challenging up front and who will be under pressure.

LOTUS RENAULT E21
7. Kimi Raikkonen –
Finland
8. Romain Grosjean –
France

Kimi Raikkonen’s return to Formula 1 after a couple of years away rallying was one of the major talking points of 2012.  There was pressure on him from the start, did he still have what it takes to race at the front of a F1 race?  After the major disappointment in Michael Schumacher’s return, questions were being raised about Kimi.  But he answered them in the best way possible.  He found his way to a win in Abu Dhabi, and finished third in the drivers championship.  He showed he hadn’t lost his talent behind the wheel of an F1 car, and if the E21, which is being launched on the 28th January is quick, I’d imagine Kimi will be up there again, possibly a major championship contender this time around.

F1_2012_Jerez_test_-_Lotus_4

2012 wasn’t the greatest year of Romain Grosjean’s career, but it wasn’t the worst either.  Three podiums highlighted the good points, but numeous first lap accidents highlighted the bad.  The fact it took Lotus a while to announce they were keeping him on for a second season shows just how much pressure the Frenchman is under.  We all know he CAN race quickly and safely, you just need to look at Valencia & Canada for that, but on occasion he was a liability on track, especially on the first lap.  His actions in Spa, though not intentional, showed some immaturity, and hopefully in 2013 he can show he belongs in F1.  Its certainly make or break for Grosjean.

MERCEDES AMG F1 W04
9. Nico Rosberg –
Germany
10. Lewis Hamilton –
Great Britain

Mercedes are having a major overhaul of employees at present; since the end of 2012 they’ve replaced Norbert Haug with Toto Wolff, and have brought in Niki Lauda as a shareholder.  Nico Rosberg remains at the team, having taken his first Grand Prix victory in China last year.  His early season form was stunning, but as the team concentrated on 2013, his 2012 efforts faded, failing to score in the final few races.  With a new teammate that everyone knows is quick, Nico will have to raise his game in 2013.  The new car is released on the 4th of February, and Nico is hoping that it’ll suit his style so he can perform at the sharp end of the field.

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Nico’s new teammate is none other than former World Champion Lewis Hamilton.  His speed and racecraft is well known, but how will he fare in a new team, his first team other than McLaren, who have been grooming him into the talent he is for years.  Everyone expects lots from Lewis everytime he gets into a race car, and that puts extra pressure on him.  2012 saw him grow in stature in my opinion, letting the negative comments drift over his head, and it saw him impress in a way I hadn’t seen since his first couple of years in F1.  A good Mercedes car should enable him to fight at the front again, but we know from his 2009 season that he’ll fight for any position.

SAUBER FERRARI C32
11. Nico Hulkenberg –
Germany
12. Esteban Gutierrez –
Mexico

Sauber had one of their best seasons ever in F1 in 2012, with four podium finishes.  However they’ve lost Sergio Perez to McLaren and have dropped Kamui Kobayashi.  They have however taken on Nico Hulkenberg from Force India, which I believe is a great coup for the team.  If the C32, to be launched on 2nd February, is as good as its predecessor, it could enable Nico to shine further on the sport.  I think Sauber have signed a future F1 World Champion, and its about time he had the car under him to show that.  I wouldn’t put it past Nico to win a race for the team in 2013.

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Esteban Gutierrez comes into Formula 1 admitting that he might not be ready for it.  He was signed by Sauber as Sergio Perez’s replacement for the simple reason that the team needed the backing of Carlos Slim, and that would only have remained if Esteban was signed up.  He has the financial backing therefore but does he have the speed?  He was the inaugeral GP3 champion and won a few races in GP2, so obviously has some talent.  Whether this talent translates well in a Formula 1 is yet to be seen.  Pre-season testing will be hugely important to the young Mexican.

CONCLUSIONS

Again we see drivers within teams that are either secure or under pressure.  You’d have to imagine Kimi Raikkonen is secure where he is at Lotus, likewise Lewis Hamilton at Mercedes where they invested heavily in him to get him there, and with Nico Hulkenberg at Sauber, who does well everywhere he goes.  Their respective teammates are under pressure.  Romain Grosjean needs to prove he can be both quick and safe on track, Nico Rosberg needs to prove he can compete with who is regarded as one of the best talents in F1, while Esteban Gutierrez needs to prove to himself he belongs in the sport.  Only time will tell for all 6 drivers.

In my third installment, I shall be focusing on Force India, Williams and Toro Rosso.